Bismillahi Rahman ir Raheem
Qul ya ahuha ladheena aamanou, kunu ma' as sadiqeen. (Oh, you who believe, be with the truthful ones).
Adab is right behaviour or courtesy; the spiritual
courtesy of the Way. Each moment, each situation, has its particular
adab: right courtesy with one's own self, right courtesy with
the creation, and right courtesy with Allah and His Messenger.
The one who knows Allah ('arif) sees things as they are in their
reality. He has discernment and therefore is able to observe
the right behaviour that each moment demands. It has been said
by the Lovers of Allah of the Sufi Path that "all Tasawwuf
is courtesy." The one with adab is he who has constant
and perfect awareness of Allah. His heart is always connected
to his Lord, at all times and in all situations. That is Perfect
adab. The Holy Prophet Muhammad - May the Blessings of Allah
be upon him and Peace - said: "I was sent to complete the
noble (beautiful) character traits of humanity"; and Allah
says in the Holy Qur'an, regarding the Holy Prophet Muhammad:
"And thou (standest) on an exalted standard of character."
The Sufis follow in the footsteps of the Holy
Prophet Muhammad and so Tasawwuf is all courtesy and
adab; which extends from right behaviour with regard to the
Sacred Law (Shari'a) and reaches to unceasing spiritual courtesy
to Allah Himself. The murid's adab towards the Murshid becomes
more refined as he travels the Path. With the opening of his
inner-eye he is able to see the reality of his Murshid and such
a "seeing" necessarily brings with it a beautiful
It has always been difficult and slightly complicated
to put the matter of courtesy and spiritual manners for the
travelers on the Path of Allah, or more precisely, on the Path
of Tassawwuf down on paper. The spiritual way of the teaching
of the Holy Prophet Muhammad is deeply founded on good
ethics and high manners. If we look to the revelation of the
Holy Qur'an, Allah has said with regards to the Holy Prophet,
"We have not sent thee except as a mercy to all creations".
And the Holy Prophet himself said "I have been
sent to complete the higher, beautiful manners"
The first word of the Revelation was "Read".
This is a clear sign to us that our success lies in reading
of the Holy Qur'an and the teaching of the Holy Prophet;
so that we can learn to implement them upon ourselves. In addition,
we should also read books to do with the teaching that have
been recommended to us either generally or specifically.
When we speak of spiritual respect and courtesy
towards the Murshid (Spiritual Guide) or the teacher that we
follow, it means that we respect the teachings of Allah and
the way of the Holy Prophet; that is the Sunnah.
The teaching of Tasawwuf is nothing but the methodology
of the Holy Prophet, or, as it is also known, 'Ilm an
Nabuwwa, the Knowledge of Prophethood.
If you are a Muslim, you will know what is right
and what is wrong and how to discipline yourself by reading
and practicing what you learn. And, if you are humble, of course,
you may ask others who are more knowledgeable than you. As Allah
has said, 'the best among you is the one who is more conscious
of Me' (Inna akramakoum 'inda Lahi atkaa'koum).
The Holy Prophet has said 'the one who
does not have mercy on our youngsters or respect for our elders
is not one of us'. Islam and in particular, the heart teaching,
which is the spiritual psychological teaching of Islam (Tasawwuf),
deals with the highest and most beautiful conduct that could
be found on this earth.
For those who have embarked upon their spiritual
journey of realisation in the Western world, the subject of
Adab or spiritual courtesy is perhaps a little bit confusing
- because of the conditioning of the Western mind and the way
that people are raised in the West. This is also applicable
to a certain extent to those who have been born Muslim and then
seek the Path of Tasawwuf.
Firstly, what does it mean to have a Murshid to
guide you along the Path? Islam is based upon three fundamental
foundations as the Holy Prophet has called them:
1. What I say is Sharia'h (the law) and the good
manners of behaviour.
2. What I do is Tariqa (the Way).
3. My inner state is Haqiqah (total realizations).
When you look for a Murshid, you are looking for
Tariqa, a way to return to your primordial self and this is
not an easy task. Many people have lost themselves on the way
because of lack of respect and courtesy, and most importantly,
love. You cannot learn from your teacher if you do not love
him (there must be a connection between your heart and his).
You start with respect, honour and good conduct
in his presence. Like any other teaching, if you want to learn,
you must pay attention. This is not kindergarten, it is a school
of spiritual travel of the most powerful teaching in the Universe.
Your behaviour and conduct towards your spiritual guide will
indicate very clearly how sincere you are, how devoted to your
aim you are and how hard you are trying to master your himma
In our time, the 21st Century, means of instant
communications come to us like unwanted nightmares - people
with mobile phones, laptops, FAX machines, satellite photos
of your Murshid's house on Google Earth, just to name a few.
Under these conditions, maintaining one's privacy has become
very difficult for the Murshid and for the murid (pupil) as
well as for humanity in general. If you have the good fortune
to live in close proximity to your spiritual teacher, you should
regard yourself as very lucky. However, with this kind of luck
comes responsibility. If these responsibilities are not understood
and taken seriously, you may enter the arena of 'familiarity
breeds contempt' and you will lose one of the most pleasant
spiritual blessings (baraka) of the suhba (companionship). This
is one of the most essential keys to understanding the teaching
Let us now give some advice that the seeker should
take to heart:
The Murshid is a human being. He has a family,
may have a business to run or a full time job to attend to in
order to earn his living. If the number of murids increases
so that the Murshid is required on a full-time basis, then it
is their responsibility to make sure that he is not in need
or bothered or worried about financial matters, so that he may
devote his complete attention to the teaching and the needs
of the seekers.
Sayyidina Abu Bakr as Siddiq, when he was appointed
as the first successor after the Holy Prophet, went
the very next day to the market to do business to earn his living.
He was told 'you cannot do business when you have to take care
of the community'. He reluctantly agreed to receive a certain
amount from the community treasury (Bayt al Maal) to keep his
family and himself.
If you are taking your teaching in Tasawwuf seriously,
you must understand that there are two types of learning on
this Path - discipline and knowledge. Part of discipline is
the purification of the self and removal of negative qualities.
This differs from one individual to another. One seeker may
come; ready for knowledge, his character and his manners and
conduct already of excellent quality. He should focus seriously
on attaining knowledge and practice his Awrad (Spiritual work
which is assigned to him by his Murshid) with great diligence
and sincerity, having no doubt whatsoever that through these
practices, with the Grace of Allah, the blessing of the Holy
Prophet, and the guidance of his Murshid, that he will
attain to felicity.
If you are in need of discipline, which every
human being is, then pay close attention (the only ones who
do not need discipline are those who are chosen from pre-eternity
as Prophets and Messengers of Allah). BUT, if you think you
are a Prophet or a Messenger of God, then you don't need a Murshid,
you need a shrink, because you are in a state of total disillusionment,
so don't waste our time. We have seen many people who read one
or two books on Tasawwuf, have a dream or two, and suddenly
they think they are the Qutb of the universe. They think lumination
comes in 'instant', like the coffee they drink. We are in the
age of the 'quickening'. People do not have patience or respect
for teaching or any understanding of the authentic traditions
Conditioning and the idea of individuality in
the age of blind materialism are attempts to destroy any decency
or coherence of the human to learn proper manners and conduct
based on Divine teaching - to become a real human being.
Now, back to the subject of the Murshid and the
The murid should respect his Murshid. You should
always try to be conscious in the presence of your Murshid.
You should not sit when he is standing.
Do not fall asleep in his presence, except in
a situation where sleep is required, then you may ask permission
to be excused.
You should not talk too much in his presence or
allow your voice to rise above his.
Do not sit in his place or use his Qur'an, Tasbih
or prayer mat, or read any of his private books.
Do not sit in a chair that has been designated
You should not be stubborn in insisting on an
answer pertaining to a certain matter. The Murshid will respond
when and if it is necessary.
For courtesy, respect, and honour, you should
not travel anywhere, get married, or start a business without
consulting with him first. (Not after you have already made
You should never go to his home or bring anyone
else nearby without being invited.
You should never call him at home without a pre-arranged
Do not go after the Murshid when he rises to leave.
When the Murshid has given his salams, this is an indication
that he is leaving the centre and may have other matters to
attend to. Do not attempt to speak with him or follow him to
If it is necessary that you speak with him, please
make an appointment through the Centre.
You should not walk in front of him, except at
night, if you feel that you need to protect him from harm.
You should not speak very highly of the Murshid
in front of his enemy because they may become hostile and vulgar
One key factor is that the murid should keep his
Murshid in visualization when he is absent from him as if he
were in front of you. Lock your heart to his in all conduct,
business, travel and all other affairs. Always maintain a close
spiritual link of heart to heart.
The murid should not keep the company of those
whom the Murshid does not like or those who have been removed
from his presence. In a nutshell, you should love what your
Murshid loves and should dislike of people what your Murshid
dislikes. This is a 'rule of thumb' in the spiritual teaching
One should see that all blessing that comes to
one's life, in the material and the spiritual states of being,
comes from the baraka of the Tariqa and the Murshid.
Implementation of the Awrad that has been set
by the Murshid is of the highest order. This includes the practices
that have been implemented for the last 1400 years - the five
daily prayers, remembrance of Allah, contemplation, meditation,
visualization of and rabtat al Murshid (fixing one's heart to
the heart of the Murshid). It is a good idea to have a special
notebook to write thoughts and questions in to contemplate on
and, if need be, to ask your Murshid.
Anyone who abandons the practices will be deprived
of spiritual help and may also show that he is not fit for the
Path of Allah. We should note here that there is no easier method
for returning back to the source of life and knowledge than
the teaching of the Holy Prophet. Any of the practices
that are assigned to the murid come directly from the teaching
of the Holy Prophet and the Holy Qur'an, with no innovations.
We have always said that the Holy Qur'an, in the form of Revelation
has been completed, but its unfolding will never end, for it
is with the Mother of the Book
Among the rules are that he should not spy on
the conditions of the Shaykh, his spiritual practices, and his
behaviour and conduct. This could bring disaster for a murid.
One should never enter the Murshid's place of
seclusion without his permission, should not open a door or
remove a curtain where the Shaykh is sitting without clear permission
It will be a wonderful and good habit, that when
you sit with your spiritual teacher, you are always in a state
of ritual purification. The presence of the Murshid also represents
the Presence of Allah. One should maintain good thoughts in
When one comes to the Sufi Study Centre, you should
not just 'drop in' because there is nothing else to do, but
always should make a clear intention to visit.
It is the responsibility of all murids to keep
the Centre clean and fresh smelling. It should be a competition
between murids to obtain the baraka of cleaning the Centre,
not run away from it with the speed of Hailey's Comet, only
to return 75 years later - -for it is a great honour in the
One should put love of his Murshid above everybody
and everything else except Allah Most High and our Beloved Holy
Prophet. These guidelines are in regard to conduct with
the Murshid, however there are also other aspects of adab for
the murid to put into practice.
With his brothers and sisters, he should show
love to both the old and the young.
Food should be brought into the Centre for the
benefit of all those who are there, not just for the individual
who brought it.
He should love for his brothers and sisters what
he loves for himself. As the Holy Prophet said 'No one
becomes a believer until he loves for others what he loves for
He should visit them if they are sick.
He should enquire about them if they are absent
and should greet them first with salutations, a smiling face
and should always think that they are better than he.
He should always attempt to please them and should
not race and compete with his brothers with regards to material
things, but should help them as much as possible.
One should forgive the mistakes and shortcomings
of the brothers and sisters. The capital of his spiritual business
is to forgive his brothers and sisters, inward and outward.
He should not complain about them.
He should love their friends and dislike their
The older should guide the younger. The young
should learn from the elder.
He should serve them, even by the smallest token
of bringing their shoes to them.
He should be peaceful and kind in his conduct
With regards to the adab of the murid upon his
He should busy himself with Allah and focus on
the love of Allah. He should love what Allah loves and should
abandon anything that Allah dislikes.
He should be generous, kind and well balanced
with regards to his material life.
Be conscious that we only have this life to transform
our selves and experience real knowledge, love and luminations.
If we practice all of what has been written in this small article,
I promise you, my dear brothers and sisters on the Path of Allah,
with the Grace and the Love of the Compassionate and Merciful
Allah that you will experience and live in a higher spiritual
state. Even the Angels will envy you for it.
Tasawwuf is a wonderful teaching, very well structured
and the method is so wonderful and full of excitement and luminations.
One can never get enough of this beautiful teaching. There is
a starting point, but the end is endless and this is what makes
this great teaching the most powerful in the world. It is the
only teaching available that can save humanity
from itself and return us to the source of peace, knowledge
There is so much more that we could say on the
subject, but we are speaking to adults, whom we hope will understand
by isharah (indications). As for those who have no courtesy,
no respect for and no understanding of this wonderful, luminous
teaching of our Beloved Prophet, Muhammad al Mustapha,
we have no quarrel with them. We say to them, good luck. Whatever
direction you take you will meet the Face of Allah. Perhaps
not the face that you expect or hope for, but the meeting will
take place, sooner or later.
And Allah speaks the truth and He guides to the
- Kashf al Mahjub by Shaykh A. Al-Hujwiri
- Qamus as Sufi (The Language of the Future) by Murshid F. A. Ali ElSenossi
- Fat Hud Dayyan by Sayyid M. Ibn Ahmad Lebbai, Summarized Sahih Bukhari
- Muhammad, his life based on the earliest sources by Shaykh Abu Bakr Siraj ad Din (Martin Lings).
- Book of Sufi Healing by Shaykh Moinuddin Chishti
- Sufi Path of Knowledge by William Chittick
- What is Sufism? By Abu Bakr Siraj ud-Din
- Introduction to Sufism by Titus Burckhardt